Ernest Hilbert

Ernest Hilbert’s debut collection Sixty Sonnets (2009) was described by X.J. Kennedy as “maybe the most arresting sequence we have had since John Berryman checked out of America.” His second collection, All of You on the Good Earth (2013), has been hailed as a ‘wonder of a book,’ ‘original and essential,’ an example of ‘sheer mastery of poetic form,’ containing ‘some of the most elegant poems in American literature since the loss of Anthony Hecht.’ The Poetry Foundation writes that “in his debut collection, Sixty Sonnets, Hilbert establishes a variation on the sonnet form, employing an intricate rhyme scheme and varied line length. A skillful practitioner of form and nuance, Hilbert shifts between delicate sonic moments and humorous narrative sequences.”

Hilbert’s poems have appeared in The New Republic, Yale Review, American Poetry Review, Parnassus, Boston Review, Verse, New Criterion, American Scholar, and the London Review. He attended Oxford University, where he edited the Oxford Quarterly. He was the poetry editor for Random House’s magazine Bold Type in New York City (1998-2003) and, more recently, of the Contemporary Poetry Review (2005-2010).

He hosts the popular blog and video show He is an antiquarian book dealer in Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife, an archaeologist.

His poems are taught at a number of universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence, the New School, the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, and Drexel University.

All Books

All of You on the Good Earth

Ernest Hilbert

Publication Date: March 1, 2013

$16.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-266-1


All of You on the Good Earth guides the reader through chambers occupied by visionary gravediggers and spaced-out movie stars, frenzied dropouts, sullen pirates, and unrelenting stalkers, noble war correspondents and cornered dictators, unlucky drunks and supercilious scientists, impatient goddesses and sad sea monsters, self-indulgent denizens of Plutonian strip-clubs and earnest haunters of ancient ruins, the infamous Rakewell in TriBeCa and sea nymph Kalypso in a beach house at the Jersey shore, characters wandering an America demoralized by economic decline. These poems contain fasts and feasts, laments and love songs, histories, fantasies, and elegies, the amusing and heartbreaking debris of life on this world, all the while recalling Seneca’s dictum, non est ad astra mollis e terris via (“the road from the earth to the stars is not easy”).

Praise for All of You on the Good Earth:

“Hilbert is one of our best rhymers since Robert Frost, and his poems have been compared by superb poets to those of John Berryman and Robert Lowell. We haven’t had a poetry like his–both seriously tough-minded and wryly self-chiding–to enjoy and mull over for a long time.”—Alice Quinn

“‘Genes clarify the genius and the freak / And prove we descend from a feral band,’ Ernest Hilbert writes in ‘Outsider Art,’ and there is no mistaking the ‘feral’ appetite and intensity of these poems, or the bitter depths of experience they sometimes explore. What makes All of You on the Good Earth such a rare collection, however, is the way Hilbert unites that raw energy with elegant and original language, creating a style that sounds like no one else’s.”—Adam Kirsch, author of The Modern Element: Essays on Contemporary Poetry

Sixty Sonnets

Ernest Hilbert

Publication Date: February 15, 2009

$18.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-361-3


Calculated to reflect the sixty minutes in an hour of heightened imaginative contemplation, the poems in Ernest Hilbert’s first book, Sixty Sonnets, contain memories of violence, historical episodes, humorous reflections, quiet despair, violent discord, public outrage, and private nightmares. A cast of fugitive characters share their desperate lives—failed novelists, forgotten literary critics, cruel husbands, puzzled historians, armed robbers, jobless alcoholics, exasperated girlfriends, high school dropouts, drowned children, and defeated boxers. These characters populate love poems (“My love, we know how species run extinct”), satires (“The way of the human variety, / Not even happy just being happy”), elegies (“The cold edge of the world closed on you, kissed / You shut”), and songs of sorrow (“Seasons start slowly. They end that way too”). The original rhyme scheme devised for this sequence–ABCABCDEFDEFGG–allows the author to dust off of the Italian “little song” and Americanize the Elizabethan love poem for the twenty-first century. Speaking at times in propria persona (“We’ll head out, you and me, have a pint”), at times in the voice of both male and female characters (“I’m sorry I left you that day at MoMA”), at times across historical gulfs (“Caesar and Charlemagne, Curie, Capone”), Sixty Sonnets marshals both trivia and tragedy to tell stories of modern America, at last achieving a hard-won sense of careful optimism, observing “the last, noble pull of old ways restored, / Valued and unwanted, admired and ignored.”


Ernest Hilbert Featured on Best American Poetry

“Prophetic Outlook” [by Ernest Hilbert] Prophetic Outlook Crooks run the whole world, and the Dow just fell. Crap rules the airwaves. All your best plans stall. The air is dirty, […]